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by Rachel Weaver

Any birthday party worth its weight in cake requires a few basics: decorations, gifts, guests, a good theme. Today, many parents are adding another item to the checklist: an unforgettable experience. There are plenty of Pittsburgh area offerings for those looking to inject a wow into their celebrations.

Here are 10 unique ways to celebrate birthdaysplus an organization that can help make birthday plans happen for kids in needy circumstancesfrom


Is your birthday kid a scientist in the making? Mad Science, in Etna, offers parties packed with interactive experiences.Whether the party is held on-site at their laboratory or if staff bring the fun to your home, every guest can participate in a variety of experiments and leave with a cool something they made themselves. Kids will learn about the origins of plastic by making slippery slime, changing ordinary glue into silly putty, or transforming crystals into a real super bouncy ball.

Parties are ideal for ages 5 to 12.

2. Find that special someone

What do a magician, a face painter and a pony have in common? They all can make an appearance at your kid’s birthday party thanks to GigSalad, the largest, most diverse online talent marketplace, where party planners can find and book performers. The site has millions of users across the U.S. and Canada, and about 350 performing artists in Pittsburgh alone.

Simply go to the site, enter in some basic information about what you’re seeking, and get free quotes from local performers. You can book and pay directly through the site. All that’s left to do is enjoy the celebration.


3. Crack the code.

Pittsburgh’s first escape room for kids has quickly become a favorite party destination.

“Most of our bookings are for birthday party activities, and we’ve gotten great feedback from kids and parents,” says Brian Colonna, co-owner of Code Breakers, in Ross.

The experience immerses kids in a scenario in which they are “trapped” aboard a broken-down alien spaceship far out in deep space. The kids work together to repair the spacecraft by solving a series of puzzles. If successful, they return safely to Earth. But no pressure. Clues are given to make sure no one is, ahem, lost in space.

A second experience called The Cloning Experiment is expected to open this spring, allowing the business to accommodate larger parties. Right now, the recommended party size is between six and eight kids.

See the rest of the list here at 

NEXT staff

The staff at NEXTpittsburgh writes about the people driving change in the region and the innovative and cool things happening here.